With Hollywood heading into Emmy season, CBS sent members from the cast and crew of Star Trek: Discovery to the Paley Center for the Media in Beverly Hills on Tuesday for a “For Your Consideration” screening and panel. Much of the focus was on the second season, but there was also some talk about the third from co-showrunner Alex Kurtzman and others. TrekMovie was there to bring you all the highlights.
Kurtzman on jumping into the future and the challenge of season three
Executive producer Alex Kurtzman discussed how a change in the show’s time setting was something planned for a long time:
We knew early [that Discovery would get stranded in the future], actually really early. Part of it was recognizing that there were all these canonical issues that had to be squared away. Why was the Spore Drive never mentioned? Why has Spock never mentioned [his sister]? It goes on and on. At a certain point it became really clear that jumping them either to the distant past or the far future was the only answer. And the minute you starting thinking future, then you have to go further into the future than any Trek show has ever gone, because then you have a brand new opportunity.
Kurtzman also briefly discussed where this time jump to the 32nd century leaves the show for season three:
The challenge of season three – without revealing anything – will be how do you reinvent the world and the universe while staying true to everything that Star Trek is?
Showrunner explains setting up the search for Spock during season two
He also discussed when they knew they would be introducing the USS Enterprise into the show:
When we decided to make Michael Spock’s half-sister we knew that inevitably that bill was coming and that would be the crux of season two, if we were lucky enough to get a season two. But you can’t just drop that out there as a random factoid. It requires an entire season to tell the story of why Mr. Spock has never told the story of his sister, and not just from a fan-service point of view. I am a huge sucker for sibling stories. I just loved the idea of figuring out how to take a season to set them as far apart as possible and then bring them back together.
On why Spock was held back for half of the second season:
We started breaking story right after the first season and it very quickly became clear that to us the most interesting thing was to not bring Spock in right away. We wanted to hold that for a while and let people search for Spock. [laughs] Just building the anticipation and the specter of Spock in the first episode “Brother,” he looms so large but he is not there and you get a deep sense that something happened between them. I always knew instinctively that I wanted to bookend the season with the siblings talking to each other, but never directly. They are echoing to each other, but we never know if their messages are going to be received. So, it starts with Burnham talking to Spock and ends with Spock talking to Burnham.
Martin-Green hopes to see Burnham find balance in season three
Show star Sonequa Martin-Green discussed Michael Burnham’s arc over the first two seasons of the show and where she thinks it is going in season three:
I loved the redemption arc of season one and I loved the arc of self-discovery of season two, because there are all these things that happen that sort of erase history in my mind as Michael. There are these cornerstones of my identity. And most of them are around shame – things that I thought I was responsible for, deaths I thought I was responsible for. I felt like I was sort of an agent of destruction. So, one by one, those things falling away made me realize who I am when I don’t have to be some kind of image of myself and not have to seek the approval of my father anymore. It’s hard. It’s hard! Not having to do that was very exciting for me and a very emotional journey which I love. I liken it to a pendulum swing, where you see me all the way on the other end in season one being as Vulcan as can be, and you see me swing all the way over to humanity and you see me be as emotional as I can be. I am not behaving capriciously. It is all within reason, but I love that that you see me swinging and what I hope for – and what I think we would all hope for – is that I start to swing toward the middle and find that perfect balance.
Ethan Peck needed help to get over his fear of Spock
Actor Ethan Peck admitted his own insecurities when it came to taking on the role of Spock:
I was hugely terrified. It seemed arrogant that I was suddenly in this reality. I was like, “what are they thinking? I hope I get fired.” I was maybe going to ruin this for so many people that care so deeply about it. But after two months I was not fired and I was still there and here we are.
The actor explained how his fears were abated through the support of the cast, especially the show’s star:
When I went back in for the third or fourth time for the role I still didn’t know what it was, and I was like, “I don’t know if I am going to be able to do this if it is not a supportive cast.” Because it is so scary and vulnerable. The text is so challenging. And I couldn’t have walked in to a more supportive, beautiful group of people that were every day attempting and succeeding in creating a very special world. Most of my work was with Sonequa and I couldn’t have asked for anyone better. [To Sonequa] Thank you so much.
As this was an industry crowd, one of the questions had Peck getting into detail about his makeup process, revealing he spent more time in the chair than Doug Jones took to be transformed into Saru:
I think we counted it was fifty-eight…fifty-eight pairs of ears. The eyebrows, they didn’t shave them. My makeup took twice as long as [Doug Jones] because there was so much detailed work and they had to cover the eyebrows with Bondo and then a blocker and then paint and then laced eyebrows.
Doug Jones says changes for Saru will be subtle
The second season of Discovery saw a major change for Doug Jones’ Saru, with the loss of his threat ganglia and a whole new fearless outlook on life. When asked if this will change the unique physicality of the character, Jones said it would be subtle:
You can’t just simulate, it is what it is. I am stuck in hoof boots – which are high-heel shoes without a heel behind them – so I am tiptoeing around all day. So, that is still there. But it is just the confidence. It is more of an internal thing, that will hopefully be more apparent. It is subtle. It should come out in subtleties. It shouldn’t be overt like “I’m stronger now!” That would be too cartoony or comic-book.
Wilson Cruz isolated himself to play the return of Dr. Culber, sees more change ahead in season three
The second season saw the resurrection of Dr. Hugh Culber, who returned with an identity crisis. Actor Wilson Cruz revealed that he took some serious steps to prepare himself for this new portrayal of the character:
It was a challenge I have to say. So much of my storyline was in isolation with what was happening with everyone else, which is really helpful because Culber was isolated and feeling out of sorts. I really did isolate myself from the cast because I love them too much and I needed to feel estranged to them. So, even during shooting, I would place my chair away so I didn’t get chatty, because Anthony [Rapp] and I can talk. There was a lot of isolation and it was really lonely, I have to say. And before I even started, I was growing all of the hair on my entire body and I didn’t want to go out in public. So, I was really home or at the gym, because I was naked. [laughs]
Cruz also talked about the character’s arc for the second season and how he sees it playing out in the third:
It required me to imagine what it would be like to get a second chance at life. Culber was in that Mycelial Network, he doesn’t even know. It could have been years, for all that he knows. And in that time, he thought a lot about what his life was before he got there. And when given a second opportunity at life, what do you do with that? What are you willing to change? What do you need to change? What worked for you before that didn’t work? And top of that, the fact that he was in a completely new body that was made from a different plane and having to imagine what it would be like to be outside of your body and unfamiliar with the body that you are in.
And I love the journey that they took this character on. He didn’t just automatically just jump back in. There were consequences to what happened – for the relationship and for him. And that is going to continue as we go on. Just because at the end of the season they are back together doesn’t mean that his journey of self-discovery doesn’t continue. I think there is more change even ahead and I am excited about exploring that.
Visual effects team gets a boost for working on Star Trek
Visual effects supervisor Jason Zimmerman talked about the process of creating the effects for the show and how it involves Star Trek history:
It really starts with the story that we get. When we get the script, that is when we break down and look at what we are going to do here. You do a lot of research from past iterations of the show, from past iterations of features, to figure out what the best look is. A lot credit goes to everyone else on the show. The art department gives us great design and there is so much to play off, it is really our job not to mess it up.
Zimmerman also noted that visual effects artists are motivated to work harder because it is a Star Trek show:
When you work on Star Trek, every artist that is a visual effects person is going to want to work on the show and they are all going to bring something extra and special and spend that extra two hours at the end of the day. Everyone is so excited to work on it. My job is super-fun.
As this was an industry event about promoting the show for awards, executive producer Alex Kurtzman jumped in to heap praise on Zimmerman, comparing the work to a perennial award winner:
He’s being modest! He doesn’t have a feature budget, and we don’t have that kind of time. So, what it requires is an artist with an artist’s eye who can manage so many people and take in story and take in a thousand notes and figure out on a really short period of time how to make it look like a feature, because that is the standard we hold the show to. For Jason and his whole team I would put this up against Game of Thrones, just at a level of pure artistry.
And executive producer Heather Kadin joined in, noting that much of the work of Zimmerman and his team goes unnoticed as they help fix things in post-production:
You have to understand when you are doing a show like this, anytime something doesn’t work the way we wanted to work on screen, it’s like: “Jason will fix it.”…He is a wizard, really a wizard.
Kadin on giving Star Trek fans their money’s worth
Executive producer Heather Kadin spoke about the work that has gone into Discovery to bring it into the modern era as an anchor show for a new streaming service:
Star Trek obviously has an enormous fanbase. What I learned through this journey is they are fans because of what it represents to them and what it represents about the future and what it represents at its core … So, I think the first thing was: how do you remain true to Star Trek at its core and then how do you bring it to the modern age? We have never seen a totally serialized Star Trek. We have never heard a score like Jeff Russo’s done. We have never seen FX like this in a Star Trek show. You go back to those earlier shows – and we love them for what they were – but if we presented everyone with that, people would have been a little confused. Not to mention we were helping to launch this new streaming platform and took it very seriously. If fans are going to be paying for a show they never paid for before, they really are going to get their money’s worth.
How Michelle Paradise rose to co-showrunner for season three
Alex Kurtzman explained why Michelle Paradise – who joined the show halfway through the second season – was tapped to join him as co-showrunner for season three:
There are a lot of things you look for in a room, and then there are a lot of things I look for in a partner. The first thing was, Michelle writes character from the heart first and foremost. She wrote “Project Daedalus”, which is the episode where Airiam dies, and she had a very tall order in that episode. People were very curious about Airiam, but we didn’t really know much about her up until that point. So the episode had to really make you love her, and then we kill her. And that is hard. It’s hard not to feel, “oh, we should have been with her before.” Michelle’s first draft was so, so good.
And she is very organized, and I am very not. So the partnership has a lot to do with how she will keep the trains running. She came to me early in the season and she’s like, “I’m going to give you lots of time to blow things up, and put it in a schedule and you are going to have two weeks to read it, hate it, start over.” And I really need somebody to do that because it is a process where it’s like you have a flashlight in the dark and you are feeling your way through it and if it feels wrong – no matter how much time you spent in the room saying this could be a good idea – once it is on the page, if it doesn’t feel right, then it is my responsibility to say I am not feeling it and we have to try something different. So, I do need someone to keep me to that schedule.
Kurtzman discussed how the two of them are working together on season three:
We have got this great rhythm now that if we aren’t in the room together we will speak in the morning and she will download me on the day’s work. She is up to forever o’clock, so she sends me stuff really late, and I read it first thing in the morning because I am up really early, and then we will talk and we have a really good rhythm. I also really like her. That is the thing. You have to take someone and we are going to spend a lot of time together. Do you believe the things I do? Do we disagree in the right ways? The message of Star Trek is so important. It is not just inclusivity in front of the camera but behind the camera, on every level. So, I just felt it was the right, easy fit.
Sonequa Martin-Green joined in to speak for the cast and crew about Paradise being tapped as co-showrunner:
I’ll tell you, we are all very excited as well, the cast and crew, we are all so excited for her. Michelle is a soul writer. She writes from the soul and we have been so proud and grateful for Alex and for you and how we transition. It was a difficult transition. It was a lot of love and a lot of difficult emotions to deal with in our transition, but the way you picked us up with such precision and such fervor and talent. We were very excited. We have been very grateful for season two and now season three.
For her part, Michelle Paradise expressed her gratitude for the opportunity:
It’s incredible, it’s absolutely incredible to come on and have the opportunity to [be co-showunner] and to have the opportunity to do it with Alex, and with Heather and [executive producer] Aaron [Baiers] and this entire cast. It’s Star Trek and it’s iconic and that is a dream come true. And to get to do it with great people is just amazing. So, I couldn’t be happier.
Star Trek: Discovery is available exclusively in the USA on CBS All Access. It airs in Canada on Space and streams on CraveTV. It is available on Netflix everywhere else.
Keep up with all the Star Trek: Discovery news at TrekMovie.